Johnsburg Central School
The Johnsburg Central School Board covered a lot of ground in their first of two budget workshops Jan. 23, which focused on staffing and benefits. Those budget items make up about $6.5 million of the slightly less than $10 million school budget.
“That's what we do,” said Superintendent Mike Markwica. “That's what our school's made up of.”
Working with the students is the primary goal of any school, so department heads advocated their budget lines in the hopes that they wouldn't see any more cuts to their departments.
“Everyone's hope was that they won't lose more in their department,” said Markwica. The 2010-2011 budget was $10,062,415, and the 2011-2012 budget dropped to $9,856,704.
“They're doing more with less, but the less is affecting students,” said Markwica.
Principal Nadine Kearney told the board that numbers have gone up for academic intervention services sought by the Committee on Special Education, which requests one-on-one attention for students.
Since 2009, the faculty has laid off or not replaced a special education teacher, a home and career teacher, two elementary teachers, a part-time art teacher and two teacher's aides.
Staffing reductions like those mean the third grade has only one teacher, and she's instructing a class of 23, large for a small school like Johnsburg, said Markwica. That student density had one member of the public voicing concern at the budget workshop about demands on the teacher and quality of education. Markwica said they plan to hold steady with one third grade teacher, and although there are always concerns with larger classes, the teacher is doing well.
Depending on the number of interested enrollees in the school's pre-k program, the school will be mailing out a survey to parents of pre-k aged kids to get an idea of who will be enrolling there, in the Head Start or not entering them into those programs at all. They may have to find a way to deal with enrollee numbers that are higher than the class capacity, like a lottery.
In high school, they've lost art, home and career, and math and science electives.
Cafeteria Manager Karen Moore was also worried about staffing. She's been working at JCS for eight years, and when she first came on there was an additional employee in her department. After that person retired, Markwica and Moore decided to add a few hours to current staffers' schedules rather than seek a new employee as that would have raised insurance and other costs.
That was with some expectation for demands on the cafeteria to drop. With the addition of a pre-k program and a Head Start program that both use the onsite meal service and a higher number of faculty and staff getting meals from the lunch line, the kitchen is producing just as much food as ever.
Challenges the finance committee will face in figuring this year's numbers are the rising costs of health insurance and increased costs to the school from pensions. Markwica said increases there will offset the state aid amount they're receiving this year.
The 2 percent tax levy-increase cap is another challenge, and Markwica said the finance committee will try its hardest to stay under the cap. But for now, they're waiting on more detailed information on the increases they'll be dealing with, which Markwica said they expect that information by the mid- or late-February.
The next School Board meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13, followed by a budget work session at 7 p.m. to deal with special education, sports, transportation, supplies and contractual obligations.